For 20 Years ‘The Spot’ in Our Kitchen Became the Keeper of Time

There’s a spot in our kitchen just past the pantry door, underneath the light switch. Over the twenty years we’ve lived here, this spot became the keeper of time, reflecting the place on the calendar by its contents. Like most things in a home, its landing-pad status just evolved without notice, the same way a person’s regular seat at the dining table comes to be.

Initially, this spot on the floor held canvas tote bags filled with not-quite-dry preschool art projects and treasured items from show-and-tell presentations. Next came backpacks nearly too big for little boy bodies. Backpacks printed with cartoon characters and filled with reading logs, classroom newsletters, and lunchboxes that likely still contained the fruit I packed in the hope that they’d make good choices without prompting. 

During the elementary years, time crept along at a snail’s pace. As a young mom with Type-A tendencies, I was always trying to stay one step ahead of the chaos that comes with a house full of boys. I’d naïvely wish for a time when we no longer tripped over the pile of bags and school projects askew on my freshly mopped floor.

The space in our kitchen where my kids always dropped off their backpacks will soon be empty. (Twenty20)

I tried to move the ‘landing spot’ to a more convenient place

I tried more than once to move the landing spot into the laundry room, which is only a few feet away and contains a door that could be closed to hide the messiness of life and satisfy my need for order. My efforts were in vain, and eventually, I accepted that, as creatures of habit, our boys would continue to use the spot as a drop zone as they barreled into the house from the day’s activities. 

I relished the summer months when the spot was no longer filled with school backpacks but instead held a cooler bag packed for a trip to the zoo or an evening at the baseball field. My favorite was the bag stuffed with towels and goggles waiting to be carried off to a long, lazy day at the pool. Those pool days will be my favorite memories from our boys’ childhoods.

Those of us who are of a certain age understand that the passage of time quickens as we get older. In the blink of an eye, the backpacks matured alongside our kids. They went from fun and colorful to black, grey, and navy shades. Their weight is now seemingly equal to that of an actual preschooler who once carried those little canvas tote bags. These bags are filled with (very expensive!) calculators, laptops, and driver’s licenses. 

A few years ago, the pile when from three bags to two

A few years ago, the pile was reduced from three bags to two when our oldest left for college. Our younger two (twins) are seniors this year and will leave for college in a few short months. They only have nine school days left this year, and it seems impossible that this spot will no longer hold backpacks come August.

I remind myself that, although the spot will be empty most days, it will occasionally be filled with duffel bags and laundry bags dragged home for a weekend stay. It’s funny how an overstuffed laundry bag now can bring even more joy than a pool bag did then. 

I’ve softened over time, or maybe I’m too tired to care about a picture-perfect home. Don’t get me wrong; I still clean and straighten up daily. And yes, I sometimes complain and demand assistance from the giant people living in our home. They clean their bathroom, do laundry, and account for the cups scattered in bedrooms and the basement (so many cups)!

We have debated moving to a bigger house

Over the years, my husband and I debated about moving to a larger home. After all, isn’t that typically the goal? When you can afford bigger and better, you’re supposed to get bigger and better.

I am admittedly overly sentimental regarding “things,” and our home is the biggest “thing” we’ve shared as a family. I could never imagine leaving the place filled with so many memories. Of course, there have been times I wished we had more space. A bigger laundry room would have been amazing! But I’ve learned to bask in the imperfection.

These days, I smile when I see the worn spots on the banister, knowing that they were made by our sons swinging themselves up and down the steps in the daily rhythm of life. I pick up giant shoes left inside the door and place them on the rack knowing that in a few months, those shoes will be walking a campus hours away from home. 

I take comfort in knowing that although the spot will be empty soon, it will again hold the things that signal our boys are home under this roof, which is the greatest blessing of all.

For the parents and caregivers who are a bit behind me in the march toward a child’s launch date, my advice is this: try to find the music in a mess, the calm in the chaos, and the joy in the journey. We know not what tomorrow brings, and even on the most challenging days, we are blessed to be a witness to the emerging adults we’ve created. “Always forward, never straight” in the path of parenthood. 

More Great Reading:

Four Steps to Surviving and Thriving In the Empty Nest

About Ellen Hess

Ellen Hess has a Master’s degree in Counseling and Human Development, Clinical Mental Health. She and her husband have been married for over 25 years and are the parents to three college aged sons. She works part time as a licensed therapist and in her free time she enjoys reading, long walks, and searching for the perfect eye cream. 

Read more posts by Ellen

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